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Surging Vikings advance to second round

The Denmark News - Staff Photo - Create Article
Jack Dewar goes up for two of his 25 points during Denmark's 61-57 win over Chilton on Feb. 27, 2024, in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs in Denmark. Photo by Kyle Wegner/kjwphotography

By Kelly Fenton

The Denmark News

DENMARK – It’s taken most of the season but the Denmark Vikings appear to have found a rhythm. 

Following a woeful week earlier this month that began with a loss to the league’s last place team and ended with a rout at the hands of Fox Valley Lutheran, it was beginning to seem as though the Vikings might not ever hit their stride.

But it’s now been four wins in five tries – the only loss a buzzer beater by Clintonville. The latest victory – a 61-57 white-knuckler over Chilton on Tuesday night – propelled Denmark into the second round of the Division 3 state tournament where they’ll take on Division 3’s second-ranked and undefeated Kiel Raiders.

“We watched the Kentucky-Wisconsin game from the Final Four in 2015 and talked about overcoming barriers and persevering,” Denmark coach Pete Dewar said afterward. “And we get up early in this one but then we go down nine. But we worked our butts off to get a win that these kids needed to get after those buzzer-beaters and after coming out flat in games.

“That is what they needed to do and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Sean Malay nailed two free throws with seven seconds left to turn a precarious two-point advantage into a four-point lead and seal the deal and improve the Vikings to 11-14. Malay bookended the game with eight of the Vikings’ first 10 points over the opening three minutes, then calmly delivered the dagger. In between it  was Jack Dewar going off for 25 points on five three-pointers, including one that broke a 50-50 tie with under five to play.

“Sean comes up there like he’s done all year,” Coach Dewar said. “He’s shooting something like 90 percent from the line and he mans up and knocks them down.”

Malay’s game-clinchers came after Denmark missed three straight free throws and following Bennett Woelfel’s banked-in three that whittled a five-point lead to two with 10 seconds left.

It was a game of runs with Denmark jumping out early. The Vikings followed the Tigers’ 9-0 run with a 12-0 run before a Chilton three in the final seconds sent the teams into the locker room tied at 30.

Another burst out of the gates in the second half put Denmark up 37-30 and they still led 47-42 on Dewar’s runner in the lane before the Tigers responded with eight straight points to go up 50-47 midway through the second half, a lead that lasted as long as it took Drake Derricks to race down court and drain a three to tie it.

Derricks was the lynch pin of a fluid offensive performance on Tuesday, dishing out six assists and scoring 11 of his 13 points after intermission.

“We did a really good job in transition with Drake running the floor and that’s where they lost Jack a little bit and he was knocking them down,” Coach Dewar said. “When he got that curl and layup that’s when I knew he was feeling it. And then Sean starting us off so quick with those two threes was big.

“At the all-conference meeting, the other coaches have been noticing what Drake has been doing running the offense. He is driving our offense and playing with so much confidence right now.”

After Woelfel answered Dewar’s go-ahead three with a game-tying three of his own, Derricks hit a tough pull-up 10-footer to put Denmark up for good. His drive following a Chilton free throw extended the lead to 57-54 and Eli Kapinos’ layup off a nifty feed from Malay extended the lead to 59-54 with under a minute to go. That play followed Kapinos defensive deflection and steal as the Tigers had an opportunity to tie it with a minute left.

“We knew we had to change something up after the Oconto Falls loss,” Jack Dewar said. “Credit to the coaches for going to the drawing board and changing up the offense and we bought into it. Even with guys like Jaycob (Dittmer) who wasn’t getting many shots early is now not only getting good shots but making them.

“And none of the guys in the locker room give Drake enough credit just for handling the man press like he does to set up the offense.”

Coach Dewar also had high praise for Dittmer and Eli Kapinos. Both were injured – Kapinos coming into the game and Ditter during.

“Those are our two swiss army knives,” he said. “And Jaycob just ripped the ice off his shoulder and Eli said, you’re not taking me out. And they just went and got it.”

In addition to Dewar’s 25 points and five boards and Derricks’ 13 points and six assists, Malay had 10 points and three assists, Dittmer seven points, Kapinos two points, six boards and two assists and Wade Anderson four points.

The Vikings made an efficient 25 of 47 from the field, including 9 of 20 from deep and committed only seven turnovers. In a remarkably even game, Chilton was 23 of 49 from the field and 9 of 23 from beyond the arc. Each team committed seven turnovers and each went 2 of 6 from the line.

Tipoff at Kiel is 7 p.m. on Friday.


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